By Michael R. Bosse, Shareholder, Bernstein Shur
If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.
LD 1977, a proposed bill titled “Registration for General Contractors for Home Improvement and Construction” was reported out as “Ought Not To Pass” on March 7, 2022, by the legislative committee holding hearings on the proposed bill. In legislative parlance, that means that the bill has “died” in committee. This means that efforts to pass any kind of registration or licensing requirement for residential contractors will have to await a future legislative effort.
LD 1977 was reported by Senator Curry of Waldo and would have required annual registration by residential contractors in the state, whether operating as individuals or corporations. The bill also would have required residential contractors to report minimum basic information to consumers, including information about the company, its insurance, past bankruptcies, and prior complaints against the contractor. The proposed bill exempted subcontractors, as well as a host of other regulated professions such as architects, engineers, plumbers, and those working in the oil, propane, and natural gas market.
Despite wide reporting in the media of troubling situations involving residential contractors and homeowners, the bill faced steep opposition, which ultimately led to the negative committee vote. Those voicing opposition to the bill’s passing argued that either the proposed law would not stop residential contractor fraud, or that it would adversely affect the construction industry. The Mills Administration did not support the bill, arguing that the bill would create another hurdle for those attempting to become contractors. Others argued that it would increase the cost of construction work, or that it would increase the already high price of homes in Maine.
As a result, the law governing home contractors remains as-is for now. The Maine Home Construction Contracts Act, passed largely in 1987, governs any home construction contract over $3,000 and requires certain provisions to be present in any residential contract. A violation of the Act can result in both a civil penalty as well as a claim of unfair trade practice under Maine’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. Both statutes must be enforced by action of the homeowner in civil court. In a few high-profile matters, the Attorney General’s Office has brought action against contractors for a group of homeowners.
The existing framework continues to place a high premium on homeowners performing their own due diligence prior to working with a home contractor or giving a contractor a deposit for work. When things go badly, your best option remains to contact a lawyer and get apprised of your rights for your unique situation.
Original article published on March 29, 2022, https://www.bernsteinshur.com/what/publications/maine-contractor-licensing-and-regulation-fails-again-in-the-maine-legislature/